She looks up at me with her big, sparkling green eyes framed by dark lashes. I watch a smile form as the corners of her small mouth turn upward. Her laugh comes out loud and high pitched, and she scrunches her nose up for just a second. She always does that when she laughs. I love it when she laughs. Happiness suits her. This moment is perfect, I think to myself. We are sitting here on our bridge, dipping our feet in the river, soaking up the warm sun, talking about everything and anything. I could talk to Elena for hours and hours and never get tired. That’s one of the perks of knowing someone since you were five. She suddenly grabs my arm and yanks it. I feel the cold water shock my system as I’m pulled down under.
“What the —, Elena?” I laugh.
“I wanted to swim.” She says to me so simply, shrugging her shoulders.
I look at her and laugh. Her light brown hair is sopping wet and all out of place. I stay there and take her in. Her freckles are more prominent than ever against her sunburnt cheeks, but I know once August ends they’ll begin to fade. We stay there for the rest of the day swimming, free from all our worries and troubles. Everything is perfect. Then, I wake up.
That was a year ago. Everything has changed. Elena is gone, and it’s my fault.
“What are we doing for my birthday this year? You have to have something planned. Tell me, Drew,” she whines to me. We are walking down the hall to leave school, and she keeps jumping in front of me.
“Okay, you’re right. I have something planned, but I’m still not telling you. I want to surprise you this year. Just be ready after school.”
“Fine. It better be good though,” Elena huffs.
We walked out of school, going our separate ways to our cars. I head home, change into some khaki shorts and a blue tee shirt, and glance in the mirror to fix up my dark brown hair. Then, I get in the car and start fidgeting with my seatbelt and mirrors. I have to tell her today. I have to tell her what I’ve been dying to say for three years now. I can’t. I drive over to Elena’s and wait for her. She walks out wearing jeans and a white tank top. As she slides into my passenger seat, I let myself admire her for just a second. She looks amazing. I can’t believe tomorrow she’ll be eighteen. It’s crazy to think that this small, whimsical, incredibly talkative girl sitting next to me could be considered an adult. We sit there, me driving, Elena with her feet on the dashboard, mindlessly chattering. After awhile, the chatter dies off, and we sit there in silence just focused on the road.
“Hey.” Elena suddenly says.
“Hey.” I say back to her.
“Tell me where we’re going, please?”
“Yeah. I guess I can tell you now.”
It’s early April and it’s not quite warm enough yet, but I wanted to take her somewhere perfect–somewhere we don’t have to worry about anything, where we can just be with each other and be happy. So, I tell her where we’re going.
“The river. I wanted to spend the day at our place.”
“God Drew, you’re the best,” She says quietly. I feel her glance over at me and smile for a second. Then, things are quiet again. I come to a stop light. It’s just me and her around and something feels right. I know I should tell her now. It’s now or never. I take a steady breath.
“Hey,” I whisper.
“Can I tell you something?”
The light turns green and my heart speeds up as I press the gas.
“Elena, I lo–”
Time stops. I hear the sounds of metal against metal. I feel my body jerk and my head hit the window. I don’t remember anything after that.
The last words Elena ever said to me were “Of course”. Something so common, something she probably said everyday, yet those words will never sound the same. The day Elena died felt like just another day. In fact, it was even better than just another day. We we’re so happy just moments before. Then, everything changed. The world without Elena doesn’t seem as bright. I try to live everyday like she would’ve wanted me to, but sometimes it’s so hard. The guilt I still feel everyday is overwhelming. It was my fault after all. There’re a million things I wish I could tell her.
“I’ll miss you.”
“You’re my best friend.”
“I love you.”